The tomato’s red hue comes chiefly from a phytochemical called lycopene. Tomatoes have attracted particular attention from prostate cancer researchers because lycopene and its related compounds tend to concentrate in tissues of the prostate.
AICR's second expert report, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective, found substantial and convincing evidence that foods containing lycopene probably protect against prostate cancer.
In animal models, consumption of tomato compounds has been linked to large decreases in prostate cancer risk. Moreover, there is evidence that this cancer-fighting potential is increased if tomatoes are consumed in a processed form that allows these natural compounds to be released and more easily absorbed, such as tomato sauce, tomato paste or tomato juice.
Lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, together with a group of related compounds collectively called the “red family,” has displayed anti-cancer potential in a variety of laboratory studies. In the laboratory, tomato components have stopped the proliferation of several other cancer cells types, including breast, lung, and endometrial.
Although the evidence suggests it is likely that foods containing lycopene, including tomatoes, offer cancer protection, AICR stresses the importance of eating a variety of plant foods to ensure the most protection against cancer development. No food in isolation can effectively lower cancer risk.
AICR has funded research on the following topics relating to tomatoes and the cancer-fighting components they contain. Click each topic to search for relevant AICR-funded research studies performed to date.